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Washington Environmental Film Festival Showcases Films From 34 Countries

More than 100 films from around the world are being shown in Washington, D.C. as part of the 17th annual Environmental Film Festival. The event includes movies, documentaries, and even animated features highlighting a wide range of environmental issues.

The 136 films come from 34 countries, and include documentaries by internationally renowned filmmakers to those made by university students. The ocean's health and sustainability is a major theme at this year's festival, with documentaries like Cuttlefish: The Brainy Bunch.

When the environmental film festival began 17 years ago, few people came to watch the movies. Now, it is hard to find an empty seat at the sites showing the films. Flo Stone is the founder and president of the film festival.

"A big thing happen when An Inconvenient Truth became such a prominent film," said Flo Stone. "Shown in theaters, DVD, winning the academy award and, of course, former vice president Al Gore becoming the Nobel Prize winner. That film eliminated the question of could an environmental film have the popularity and interest."

Most of the films are documentaries but there are also feature, experimental and animated films, such as the Spanish production Spirit of the Forest.

"People think an environmental film festival must be full of very serious films with very strident issues and there are issues of water, oceans, pollution, loss of wild lands, crowding, urban centers in the festival," said Stone. "But there are also films that have tremendous humor and that take people to places they could never go personally."

More than 60 of the filmmakers came to present their work and talk to the audience. Ian Connacher is the director and producer of the award winning documentary: Addicted to Plastic.

"My movie Addicted to Plastics is about solutions," said Ian Connacher. "So I point out the problems, the toxicity, the litter, what's happening to the food chain. But I also wanted to showcase solutions. Now there is no magic bullet. One is recycling, but unfortunately of the 100 billion pounds [45 million metric tons] that Americans produce in plastic every year, they recycle less than 5 percent."

Connacher got the idea for his documentary from a large area of the South Pacific Ocean where currents carry huge amounts of trash and plastics. There, he says, scientists have found six times more plastic than plankton.

The documentary The Return of the Honeybees explores the mysterious disappearance of honeybees around the world. The insect is a key pollinator for crops. Co-directors Maryam Henin and George Langworthy spoke about the phenomenon.

"Initially I was drawn by the mystery element: all these bees are disappearing from a hive," said Langworthy. "And there are not dead bees around the hive they fly away , they leave their queen, they leave their children. They just disappear and no one still to this day, after three years of intensive research, really knows exactly why."

"It is not just one thing that is killing the bees, it is a host of things that when coming together can affect the hive," added Henin. "There is one thing in my personal opinion that seems to be the leading factor, which is the pesticides."

The environmental film festival continues until March 22. Regardless of what film is shown or how it is made, the audience is receiving a common message: the growing need to care for the health of our planet.